A handy guide to keeping your kitchen counters clean

Keeping kitchen counters pristine serves two purposes: Your kitchen looks nicely kept and the counters become less of a breeding ground for bacteria. There is a bewildering array of choices for counter tops, from solid-surface synthetics to laminates, ceramic tiles, marble, granite, engineered or synthetic stone, timber, glass stainless steel and polished concrete. Follow the manufacturer's instruction for cleaning your kitchen counter but heed these hints for keeping it spotless.

A handy guide to keeping your kitchen counters clean

1. General maintenance

  • This calls for removing the stuff on it first, then cleaning up surface dirt and crumbs with a soft-bristled brush or hand-held vacuum.
  • Wet a nylon-backed sponge with soapy water (dishwashing liquid in warm water) and use the soft side of the sponge to wash the countertop, backsplash included.
  • Let the soapy water sit on the surface for a few minutes to soften any spots.
  • Switch to the scrubbing side to remove any stuck spots.
  • Rinse with warm water and buff dry with a clean, lint-free towel.
  • Or, squirt with a window cleaner, wipe clean with a sponge, rinse with water and dry so that it doesn't look dull or streaky.

2. Plastic laminates

  • These surfaces don't take kindly to being cleaned with anything scratchy. Instead, sop up spills immediately with a sponge, then use a soapy sponge or all-purpose cleaner to wipe the countertop clean.
  • For obstinate stains, make a paste of lemon juice and cream of tartar, spread it on the stain and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then rinse and dry.
  • Remember, the older they get, the more laminates need a gentle touch. They can chip, scratch and lose their shine as they age.

3. Solid-surface synthetics

  • Synthetics can withstand light abrasion.
  • Wet a scrub sponge or squirt a mildly abrasive cleaner on a damp sponge and apply with gentle pressure.
  • Rinse with water on a sponge and dry with a soft cloth

4. Stone counters

  • Usually made of marble or granite, stone counters are increasingly popular these days, and counters are rather delicate. Even mild acid etches marble and anything greasy stains granite.
  • To clean marble and granite, start with the don'ts:
  • Never use anything abrasive. Instead, wash with a few drops of plain or antibacterial dishwashing liquid on a damp sponge.
  • Rinse the surface completely with clean water and dry with a soft cloth.
  • Or, buy a cleaner formulated for stone from your supplier.

5. Engineered stone

  • These counters usually resemble granite but require no sealant and little extra care to keep them in good condition.
  • Wash with soap and water, an all-purpose cleaner or a window cleaner.
  • Here are two key tips for taking care of stone counters, which may end up saving you the cost of repairing stained or damaged stone surfaces in your home. Blot up spills with paper towels as soon as they happen. And don't try to wipe them off, as that only makes matters worse.
  • Flush the spot with warm water and a mild soap, rinsing several times before drying with a soft cloth.
  • Stone counters are sometimes sealed with a penetrating commercial sealant. Make sure that wherever you prepare food, the sealant is non-toxic. Vegetable oil is a cheap, effective, non-toxic, homemade coating for food preparation areas.
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